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tv   Overheard With Evan Smith  PBS  July 19, 2011 11:00pm-11:30pm PDT

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>> funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in part by hillco partners, texas government affairs consultancy and its global health care consulting business unit, hillco health. and by the mattson mchail foundation in support of public television. and also by mfi foundation, improving the quality of life within our community. and also by the alice clayburg reynolds foundation and viewers like you. thank you. >> i'm evan smith. this week one of the still new century's brightest foodie stars, a former prolific writer for the normal times, a editor of the "new york times" magazine, the co-creator of the blog food 52 and the author of several books that pivot off of a love of cooking and eating. her latest book just published is the essential
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"new york times" cook boofnlgt she's amanda hesser. this is overheard. >> amanda hesser, welcome. >> thank you so much. >> hardly know where to begin. there are more than a thousand recipes in this book? >> that's right. >> and you cooked every one of them. >> oh yeah, and moore. >> are you sick of cooking at this point? >> i'm not. well, i took six years to do it. so... >> but still, even if you do the math it seems like a lot. >> it's a lot of cooking, yes, i will not deny that. but it was great. it was like how often do you get a chance to cook 1400 recipes? >> just do that, right.
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so this is a question i'm sure you've been asked, which is your favorite? >> well, it's like choosing your favorite children. i can't choose a favorite, but -- >> i i'm not letting you off that easily. >> i know you're not. i'm going to name a couple. one is a very unusual recipe called tomato figs. we all have this terrible impression of sun dried tomatoes because we ate too many of them in the 1980's. these are actually cooked, plump tomatoes, cooked in a sweet syrup, almost a jam, and once they're translucent you sun dry them and cover them in powded sugar and they're like dried figz. >> they're tasty. >> they're totally delicious, great with cheese and a kind of lost 19th century res impeachment. >> now, i want you to give us the other ones too. how hard is a recipe like that to do if you're the average person who can fumble his way through the kitchen, but is no julia child. >> if you can boil water you can make these. >> i like that. >> here is another one that
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i love and many readers love, which is called david airs pancake. it's sometimes called a german pancake and sometimes called a butch baby. and it's essentially -- i know, a great name. >> i was with you until the baby part actually. >> i don't know where the baby part comes from. essentially you heat up an iron skillet, add a bunch of butter. you make this batter that takes literally amix together. it's very minute thin and you pour it in and you think it's hopeless and in the oven it starts growing up out the sides of the pan and it's like this very thin buttery crepe with crisp edges because it's grown out of the pan in the hot oven. you pull it out and i like a souffle, you pull it out and pour on powdered sugar. >> i'm sensing that powdered sugar is the secret ingredient to everything. >> yes, ma'am. >> is that a breakfast pancake. what is that? >> yes, it's like a weekend breakfast pancake. you could also serve it as dessert, though. >> now, i'm hungry and i
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must leave actually and i've been talking to you for five minutes. so people understand these recipes, these -- there are about 1400 recipes or so? >> there's a thousand in the book, but i tested 1400. >> they made the cut basically. >> they made the cut. >> so people understand the there's fi behind this book, these are recipes that came in from here and there and everywhere. >> that's right. the thing about the "new york times" is as a newspaper they've been writing about food news and food trends since the 1850's. and so it's this incredible public document of american -- like american food culture. so basically i was just kind of unearthing and distilling 150 years' worth of recipes so that i could deliver them to you in a book that says here are the ones that mattered and here are some amazing gems that we've forgotten about. >> and no recipe was sent in by some yutz and not tested and they just put it in and it's terrible. every recipe, this is the whole testing process, right? >> that's right.
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the 19th century recipe archive, which is is incredibly bountiful, was all reader recipes. yes, they were readers -- >> you had to dust them off and try them again. >> yes. there are a couple of ones that you would not expect to find there. for instance, there's a recipe for dulce deleche, which is the ice cream flavor. and there are recipes for grenada, the shaved italian ice that we thought was invented in 1985 and indeed no. but there are recipes like something called spanish frico, which is vsh much a european style braced ditch and it's very inextensive cut of beef that you slice thinly raw and you layer it with sliced unions and potatoes and they cover it in cream and put it in a low oven and cook it forever. you don't add anything else and it's fantastic. >> remarkable to think that -- and we would have thought these were all relatively recent creations? >> exactly.
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>> incredible. the book that i remember from the "new york times" was the craig claiborne book, the one that was 1961. this is not that book updated, though. >> no, it's not. >> you make the point of saying that in your book. >> i strenuously say that. and the reason being is that that is fantastic book. and if you don't have it you should get it. and it's -- but it's very much kind of a snapshot of the times food coverage, which he was the primary writer then, from the late 1950's. and my book spans 150 years and also there's been so much food writing in the time since craig claiborne, there's molly o'neal and there's been -- there's pierre frenee. >> the lee brothers. >> exactly. jonathan reynolds, julia reid. so i -- i was distilling all of these recipes as well. >> remarkable. i want to know about you. why are you this person as
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far as food goes? >> i think i've always been interested in food because my family has always been really -- my mother was a great cook. my grandmother was a cook cook. food was such a focus of our home. it's not like fancy food either. in fact, my mother i remember saying, she never bought mastering the art of french cooking because she couldn't afford the book. >> is that right? >> it was at a higher price point than she was comfortable spending on a cookbook. so -- but she made everything from scratch. she was kind of the classic kind of american home cook. she made pot roast and things like that. she made her own bread and she canned and she made jams. i think that all kind of -- it infused -- >> if you grew up in that environment, then surely you think this is something i want to do myself. >> but i never thought it was a profession. i thought everyone eats this way. >> is it a profession? do you think of it as a profession for you? you didn't actually become a chef, although you did study with chefs. >> right. it didn't -- i didn't become a profession until i started writing.
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and after i had done some cooking. >> in other words, you didn't set it on make it your profession. was it more accidental or deliberate? >> it was deliberate, but i didn't know where i was going to land. i started in restaurants and bakeries and i went to europe and did the same thing there. i thought i would become a bread maker, but i would like to write some day. it was a matter of trying out a bunch of different things and then trying to write. i was actually a finance major in college, so i never really -- >> oh, you wouldn't have amounted to anything actually doing that. tell me about your time during college. there's a story that you worked in a bakery. you actually drove bread around so you worked overnight in the bakery and then you delivered the bread that you made. >> yeah, yeah. i would start work on saturday night and i would -- it was a very small bakery and it was just at the beginning of this european bread craze. so it was a very exciting place to be. we would mix the dough and shape it. it was like three women working together. and then i would pack it up and i would put it in the delivery truck and drive it around to all the nice
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restaurants in boston at nine a.m. >> you would start at the bottom and work your way up. >> exactly. irvetion and where were you overseas and talk about that. >> it was very common to actually do apprentice ships around europe. what i did is i started in germany. i worked at a bread bakery there. and then i moved to switzerland and worked in a bread bakery there and i worked in italy and rome in a famous bakery there which actually has kind of inspired this meter long pizzas that you see and a lot of other things. and i also worked in paris and i -- i got around. >> at what point did you transition from doing it to writing a book? >> i ended up my last sort of stop in europe was again in france in burgandy. i worked for anne landfillen, which is a will known cookbook writer and also the founder of a cooking school. i worked for her and i was her editorial assistant, so i worked with her on her cook books and i became
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really interested in her gardener who worked on the property. she has a beautiful 17th century chateau in burgandy and i worked there and cooked from the garden. i was inspired to tell the story of the gardener. i felt like smfs something to be told because i could tell that his life-style was completely dying out in france. >> and thisecame the basis for your first book? >> that's right. >> and from that then you got into doing this more as -- this became your part of the business. >> exactly. then i got hired at the times from there. >> you wrote something like 500, 600, # hundred, some incredible number of stories in the times over the years. very prolific stuff. what kind of stories when you would write about food were of interest to you? more about cooking and ingredients, more about restaurants? >> i was actually writing about -- i like writing about people, yeah. so i think of stories like julie powell. i wrote about julie powell when she was writing her blog. >> this is julia and julia. >> she was a great character and doing this -- she had
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taken on this daunting task. and it was just a great tale. and i wrote aboutfergus henderson, who has -- it's about eating all parts of the animal. sorry if you're vegetarian. >> i'll sit here calmly while you're talking about it. >> he is this amazing entrepreneur and person. i actually like writing about people. in fact, my first book was about this gardener really, but food was surrounding it. my second book is really about my husband and our courtship, but food is with it. >> i want to ask you about that. your husband became a character in a lot of the work that you did in the times. he was kristened mr. latte so people don't think we were hiding the ball here. he is ted friend from the new yorker magazine. who is the origin of plvment latte? who is the arrest engine of the nickname? i'm guessing it has to do with latte. it doesn't require much of me to make that assumption.
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>> we were set up on a blient blind date and he took me to a quite horrible restaurant and ordered a budweiser to start. >> started off well, didn't it? [ laughter ] >> it was a tough date. and then ended by ordering a latte after dinner. so i nicknamed him mr. latte to sort of emphasize his non-foodieness and my foodieness. >> so you don't order a latte -- >> italians would never order a coffee drink with milk in it after a meal because after a meal you want the espresso which has a crisp punctuation to your meal. >> so he really blew it? >> by american standards it was perfectly acceptable. these were back in my institutetsnootydays. >> so that was indeed your second book. you wrote about that, but food was at the center of that book as well. >> exactly. i feel that food is a jumping off point for a lot of things.
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>> the blog you're involved with now is a constant destination on the internet for me as a total amateur. i want to talk about how that came to pass. so this -- merrill stubs is the partner on this. >> that's right. >> it's food52.com. and it's a lot of recipes, but to call it a blog or a website that contains recipes does not do it justice. talk about how you -- >> it is really a food community because it's not us, it's the whole community of people who are involved. and essentially we were interested in the concept of crowd sourcing and carryiation because we feel thaifs very much missing online. we knew there had been a cultural shift. americans had gone from being really interested in food to like really knowing a lot about food and having very specific expertises. and the evidence of this is the thousands of food blogs that have proceed liv prolifera. people want to express themselves and be credited for it and.. and we wanted to
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focus and create this platform where the crowd together kind of finds and elevates these great cooks and their recipes. and we wanted to start with recipes to begin with, but we'll start adding other elements of food so it becomes this hub of all things food that's occur rated by everyone. >> by everyone. >> and the recipes are vetted -- the recipes are specifically vetted by everyone. if something goes on, a site and you encounter it, you can be sure that people who actually do care enough to take the time to -- they're all going -- they've got your back. >> right, exactly. >> what about the medium of the internet as a food writer versus the old print that we all grew up -- some of us grew up only knowing that and others of us have kind of straddled. but how is the internet as a place to do your work versus print? >> i wil love it. the thing that i sort of found in working on the essential "new york times" cookbook is i called on readers to send me their
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favorite recipes. what i discovered in the thousands of e-mails and letters that i got was like wow, there's this huge community out there that has a relationship with the "new york times" and the "new york times" food pages. and that's sort of what is lacking in the sort of old style media is there's a disconnect between the writers and the people who are reading them. and there's -- there's missed opportunity for a really rich conversation around those topics. so that's what the internet sort of provides so that instead of just broadcasting what you're writing about and then not hearing anything about, there's this kind of exchange. >> it's cool you've been able to make both work. you still have one foot in the old and one in the new. as a way you refer to the crowd sourcing that's a basis for this community, we come back to the cookbook because the cook back is effectively crowd sourced. it was crowd sourced before we even knew the term crowd sourced. >> exactly. >> i want to come back to what didn't make the cut. so 400 recipes essentially you made and said no, not --
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give me one, two. >> i'm going to give you an example. there was a plum dessert with -- it was an almond crumble, my own recipe -- i know! >> you didn't make the cut. [ laughter ] >> i didn't make the cut. i revisited it and i said what awful person came up with this recipe!!?? >> oh, me? do you know what it needed, powdered sugar. if only you would have done that. and it was primarily a case of just i tried this, bleh. >> the portions were off. i knew i had made it before, but i think when i actually wrote it down and published it, i must have messed something up and i don't know what. but that was not going in the book. there were a few unmentionable things, but even there were some recipes that were recommended by three people -- >> still not good. >and ifelt like tens of thousans of recipes to choose from. they had to be things that i would be excited to make again or that said something about like the way we eat.
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or that had some interesting detail or technique. >> yeah. this is -- it's actually very interesting that you say that, i want to make it again, because as i encounter a lot of recipes i think i might make this once. i'm not inclined to make it again. this is not a cookbook for the occasional use. you're trying to build something that's for everyday use. >> oh yeah, absolutely. and also one that has this broad range of classics and then these kind of like surprise gems that you haven't heard of or that have gotten lost in the course of history. and yeah, i mean, it really needs to be -- my view is that it needed to be a book that has a narrative. i think people forget that cookbooks really need a narrative and also touched on these kind of seminal points in our food history. >> as a practical matter how much of the cooking that do you in your own house is cooking like this? you make a point in this -- i think it's on the blog where you're talking about yourself and you say my child ate pigeon by age two
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ou necessarily wanting to. and i thought my kids are not willing to eat hamburgers sometimes. let alone pigeon. how do you integrate that part of your life into your home life as a cook? >> well, there's a little tough love element to it. >> if you're feeding your kid pigeon, i should say on so [ laughter ] >> i am like my parenting style around food is like this is what's for dinner, period. >> i'm not a short order cook. if you don't like this, the kitchen is closed. >> that's right. but at the same time it's not like i try to make it fun and explain what we're eating. >> how old are your kids now? >> they're four. >> so a typical four-year-old meal in your house would be what? >> oh, i mean, it could be anything from stereotypical as macaroni and cheese. >> do you break open a box or make it yourself. >> no, i make it myself. [ laughter ] come on! >> not making -- now making every single person watching the show feel incredibly
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guilty and small. [ laughter ] no,, no keep going. we still have time to fix this. that's okay. >> whenever we're testing recipes for food few that's -- 2 that's what they have for dinner. they had this french salad sandwich. >> four years old. >> i sent them to school with that. >> you did? do they get mocked? your food is too fancy. >> i have a battle with them because they have a regular school box -- lunch box and they have -- and i have indian boxes for them and i want them to take the boxes to school because i think they're really cool school. >> and their attitude is not feeling that. >> yeah. >> so what's the most cood food like food that you give them? do you serve them hot dogs? i'm curious about -- >> good hot dogs. >> what's a good hot dog? >> one that is handmade, not produced in some giant
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factory. i'm -- i'll make a grilled cheese for them. i sort of feel like they should eat what we're eating and i don't always eat fancy food at all. >> and in fairness to you, i'm hoping a tiny bit -- in fairness to you, you say in this cookbook, look, these recipes come from more than -- butter is going to be in -- it's not like crazy modern. we're going to accept the fact that with a lot of the stuff that you're proposing people cook, it's got basic ingredients and it is going to be not healthy necessarily. >> exactly. i felt you should appreciate the full spectrum of food. >> and you should lean into it. >> uh-huh. >> so you live in the new york area. >> brooklyn. >> where do you shop? do you go to the supermarket to buy your ingredients. you mentioned hot dogs at the butcher shop. that tells me something. where do you go to -- >> i shop at -- there's a green market in my neighborhood. i shop at whole foods. there's a great little incredibly well edited food store called brooklyn martyr, but i only go there
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occasionally because it's the kind of place you really don't want to go in with a credit card. >> dangerous. >> very dangerous. tad does not like when i go there. but yeah, i shop all around. new york it's funny because they always say you can get anything in new york, but you can never get it in one place, so you kind of end up going here, there and everywhere. that's sort of the fun of it. >> i want you to give us the fine minute hesser. assume that people watching this presume are all amateurs, but want to become better cooks from a technique standpoint. what are the things that ye to ? >> well, i think that the most important thing to do when you're making a recipe is to actually read the recipe first. >> that's like a god forbid you should do that moment, but in fact it's true. >> it seems important, but you think why do from step one to step two, but you really need to do that. the other is to prep all of the ingredients in the list. pull every one of them out. if it says chopped, chop
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them before you start because it will make your life way easier. >> so you actually are of the school when you go through it and identify the ingredients and it tells you to do certain things beforehand, don't do them as you go, do them all before. >> recipes are designed for exact cli that reason. >> prep means prep. >> exactly. the other thing is i find almost every cook it's really stressed out about finishing a dish, like finishing a bunch of dishes all at once. that's the most stressful point about cook agriculture meal. >> you time it so you cook backwards and get everything done at the same time. >> a chef told me something interesting a few years back, which was you don't want to serve hot food. because you don't -- it's too hot to enjoy all the flavors. so you actually need things to cool down a little bit the. >> it's okay if it's fun 15 minutes ago. >> exactly. and if you spend any time in europe, you will start noticing that actually you gt a lot of things that are room temperature. it was so liberating when he said this to you because i
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thought oh right. you never have super hot food in a restaurant unless it's not a great restaurant. and so why do you need to do that at home? so it immediately kind of lets you off the hook. >> is there one tool, one implement in the kitchen that you would say this is kind of my secret device, the thing that makes me a better cook that people should have? >> yeah. this is not like any -- it's not that uncommon now. the microplane -- >> say that again. >> microplane zester. >> it is actually a wood rasp. it was designed as a tool for wood and the wife of the owner of this tool company was looking around for her zester and couldn't find one, so she used it for oranges and it worked great. >> tell me she cleaned it work. >> she d. >> and it became a huge hit. but it zests better than any tool. it makes lemon zest much more fragrant, it's really delicate, but also used for
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pardoparmesan cheese. >> it looks like a metal ruler, but it has these tiny blades much. >> of all the things you could pick, you pick that. >> yeah. i think it's the most transformative design in a utensil or tool in the past decade at least. >> pretty amazing. we have a little bit of time left. you are now on tour with this cookbook that was just published. surely you're thinking ahead. what are you doing next? >> the next book will be the food 52 book. >> you have a deal already? >> that's how we started. we had a deal already and we had 52 weeks of recipe contests and that first batch will go into the first book. >> it will be all 52? >> it will actually be like 140 recipes because we did two contests her week and wild cards. >> when will that be -- >> that will be in the spring. >> pretty exciting. what was your -- i asked you about the cookbook. what was your favorite
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recipe in the course of that challenge? >> goo goodness. my favorite recipe -- >> pick one good one. >> i'll pick one good one. i would say there is a beef cheek taco recipe, which sounds very exotic, but it's super easy and you can use short ribs, use any kind of stewing beef for it. and i've made it so many times and you just cook the beef really slowly. it has a delicious marin naid. a little spicy. has a little bit of peanut butter in it and you have cilantro on top. >> beef cheek taco. if you go to food52.com, you can search and find it. >> absolutely. >> thank you for being here with us. it's fun to talk to you about the stuff. i'm going to find a microplane zester when i leave the studio today. thank you very much. [ applause ]
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>> funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in part by hillco partners, texas government affairs consultancy and its global health care consulting business unit, hillco health. and by the mattson mchail foundation in support of public television. and also by mfi foundation, improving the quality of life within our community. and also by the alice clayburg reynolds foundation and viewers like you. thank you. o?7o7gg7ogwp
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